These crispy polenta croutons are the perfect finger food for toddlers and baby-led weaning fans. They’re soft and creamy on the inside and crunchy on the outside.
Polenta is simply cornmeal boiled into a porridge, and eaten creamy and soft or baked, fried or grilled. It is quick and easy to make (if using the instant variety, of course!). Unlike flour made from wheat grains, cornmeal does not contain gluten, which makes for an ideal food to serve those who suffer from celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
Due to its mild flavour, polenta lends itself to a variety of spice and herb combinations as well as preparation methods. My go-to method of preparation is usually soft and creamy, topped with marinara sauce or a mushroom cream sauce. I’ve made Baked Polenta in the past, which is a hit with the entire family so I can say that I have that method of preparation under my belt too.
My son is not much of a fan of the super-creamy texture so I had a go at preparing it differently, in order to encourage him to give polenta another chance. My hard work (well, not so much!) and creativity paid off. He gobbled these up! I do think the fact that he was encouraged to use his hands to eat might have had something to do with it too!
There are two ways you can prepare these crispy polenta croutons, by using ready-made polenta…
Or from scratch using instant polenta. I chose this method of preparation, although the former is much quicker and easier.
Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce the heat to low for 1-2 minutes then slowly pour in the cornmeal. Stir vigorously for 2-3 minutes or until the polenta is dense enough that it comes away easily from the sides of the pot.
Remove the pot from the heat and quickly stir in the Parmesan, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
Pour the polenta onto a small baking sheet (depending on desired thickness) and spread out evenly with a spatula (coated with cooking spray) until smooth and uniform.
Let sit in the fridge for at least 2-3 hours or until fully cooled and firm.
Remove from the fridge and cut into desired portion sizes.
Heat 1 tbs. of extra-virgin olive oil in a pan on medium-heat for about 1 minute.
Add the polenta cubes and cook for 2-3 minutes, tossing often, or until crispy and browned.
Season with salt and pepper, and more Parmesan cheese, if desired. Serve alone or with marinara dipping sauce.
Store leftovers in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days.